Restaurant Revisited: Mama Lee’s

by in Shows, May 2nd, 2012

Mama Lee'sWhen Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team visited Mama Lee’s soul food restaurant in San Antonio, it had never turned a profit and was just weeks away from closing down. A few months after Robert’s major revamp — he even called in reinforcements from HGTV’s Kitchen Cousins — we caught up with Ken, the owner, to see how business is going.

Four months later, Mama Lee’s is closer to turning a profit. Sales are up 15 percent and Ken is seeing many new customers in addition to his old regulars. With the increase in sales, he is slowly catching up on overdue bills.

Ken still feels reinvigorated as a leader. “We’re holding staff meetings every other Sunday,” he told us, in order to address service issues and discuss customer feedback. “I’m re-energized.”

The restaurant is now a source of pride for Ken and his crew. They are cleaning the new kitchen daily, and the vents are cleaned once a week. Weekly visits from the exterminator have eliminated the roach problem. “The guys are taking pride in the restaurant, and that is reflected in our actions.”

The new decor is a big hit with customers, who talk most about the frying-pan flowers on the walls. Ken’s favorite part is the new bar. He has applied for a liquor license, which he expects will help boost sales even higher.

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Valley View (March 14)

Pelican Grill (April 25)

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Comments (1,095)

  1. Kristen says:

    I just loved this episode! I really hope for nothing but success for Ken and his restaurant. He seems like a good guy and Robert gave him a kick-a$$ new restaurant! Good luck, Ken and family!

  2. Arethia Cowden says:

    I want that recipe that Robert done with the Chicken, I believe he stuffed it with peaches, greens and onions I want this recipe.

    • Nicole says:

      Here is the link to the recipe for the chicken stuffed with greens and peaches. I have made this several times. I have used different greens including mustard, collard, and kale. I prefer using fresh peaches but have used canned in the winter. Always turns out delicious and is so easy to make!!!!!

  3. w dan says:

    I agree…"logging in" keeps people away, that is the point I guess

  4. Cindy says:

    Ken thank you for serving our country hope your business does great

  5. eric says:

    I absolutely love the show. My wife and I have been regurlar patron's of one of the restaraunt's Del's italian restaraunt in Pittsburgh ever since Chef Robert did a show there. Every dish we have had there has been OUTSTANDING! I recommend Del's to anyone with taste buds. The service was warm, kind and friendly. Chef Robert you have really have been a tremendous catalyst to reawaken the culinary soul and spirit of the owners. GREAT JOB!

  6. south47th says:

    This was one of my fav's. Chef Robert and the Crashers" did a FAB job for one of our Veterans.

    Kudos to Chef and Team (including the wonderful folks at the restaurant supply) and Thank you for your service Ken. Hoping that your restaurant continues to bring joy!

    RI Rocks!!

  7. Brandon says:

    worst soulf food ever. Went the other day and they apparently went right back to their old ways because everything was clearly frozen. I had a burger, my wife the fried chicken, and her mother the pork chops. Was looking forward to trying Roberts baked chicken but it isn't on the menu. Never going back and wouldn't recommend you do either

    • latingemeyez says:

      I agree with you Brandon. I went to it the place today these were my results:
      the Meatloaf, mac and cheese, and gumbo was really good However, I had to wait too long for my food to arrive, the tables were filthy, they are short staffed because I had to continuously go to the hostess to ask for things. the price for the food was ok. I believe that the Chef that helped them would be very disappointed if he were to go back and check on them. Also they took the chicken dish that the chef tought them off the menu. I will never go back. It is not worth it.

    • demelzabunny says:

      I wonder why it really failed. Perhaps the owner was having personal problems and just let everything slide. It's really a shame; just would like to know what happened.

    • Ure A. Retard says:


  8. Karen says:

    I think alot of these people don't know what they are talking about. Restaurant Impossible is definitley a wonderful show, with an altruistic spirit. What happens after the fact is up to the owners of the establishment which has been so summarily blessed with the upgrades and superior knowledge of Mr. Irvine.

    If the recipients of this knowledge and expertise are ignorant enough to ignore it, then they WANT to fail so that they can declare bankruptcy…..which is indeed the worst failure of all. The efforts of Roberts team are all for nothing.

    northern comfort


    • Anne says:

      Amen to that, if you don't take his advice to heart you do want to fail! My goodness it's not that difficult, call him back and say we need more help, so sad how many of these restaurants have failed after all Robert & his teams have done!

  9. albert august says:

    I watch Chef Robert every time he is on. I love watching him cook!!! He has inspired me to try to cook for myself the dishes he creates. I have been forced into retirement and I fight depression every day and Chef Robert helping all those people get their lives back on track and a second chance at being a success has given me inner strength sitting watching and feeding off his passion I cannot express the joy he brings into my life!!!!!

    • Anne says:

      Hey you, hang in there, I feel the same every day also. I agree , the joy and passion is an inspiration to me also!,,

  10. richfrid says:

    They just closed the restaurant today with a 40 point demerit. Roaches again.

    • Jay says:

      June 16th, the restaurant said goodbye! The sad part is when you go back to your old stubborn ways…the business suffers. Roaches, salty food, and waitresses who want your number and not to serve you is what you get! Ken is a great man, but it's what he hired that caused the business to drown!!!

    • johnsnare says:

      Restaurant Impossible, is a sham. My wife's family was in the restaurant business for over forty years, and she claims that the board of health would have closed those places a long time ago, even before the filming. Chef Irvine does a good P.R.. How they could even serve the public, with the conditions they show prior to the renovation, is mind boggling. Knowing they had roach infestation, and serious cleanliness issues, and they continued to serve their product.? A real class act.

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